One of the most stressful times for any software project is the day of launch.
Let’s talk about the Launch Day From Hell.
When the fit truly hits the shan – your mindset matters. I flashback to many years ago – I was Tech Lead on my first big Go Live. I had seen many launch issues as a developer and it’s always a stressful time but leading one is different. This was the same project that had already seen quite a bit of drama, refer to our 2 vendor fiasco story from March.
On launch morning I woke up feeling like I’d been run over by a truck. Headaches, body aches, exhaustion, the whole nine yards–NOT the way you’d want your big day to start.
I was excited though – going into a launch day is like walking onto the field at the world cup finals. You are prepared, you know what the goal is, but you can never know how it will unfold.
This was a project that was in development for close to 2 YEARS. That is a lot of code that has never seen the light of day. Not to mention a large percentage of the codebase was work from another vendor which added to the risk immensely.
On top of that, I had just traveled into town the night before, gone straight to the celebration dinner with our team and our clients, and I was still dealing with the travel tiredness. I may have felt like crap, but at least I had a strong team to support me through the day, Rajiv our CEO was on site with me as well as Jared, one of our Tech Leads.
But there was still work to be done before we launched in a matter of hours so we headed into the office to make the final touches.
Little did I know, Murphy’s Law was in full effect that day.
As we’re setting the agenda, we get a call from another client telling us that their website is down. Definitely not what we needed right now.
Stressful conversations ensued that I was pulled into. Client anxiety. Critical data. We discuss, Jared makes a few calls and finds out someone has deleted the production database! So off he goes to restore the database and resolve the issue.
Anyhow, Rajiv and I have to keep pushing forward, so I continue on the launch project that requires a good bit of coordination and leadership. I’m working through some final bugs and finishing touches, but most importantly I need to touch base with the client to ensure that they’re aware of the plan.
We identified 12 open items that the CEO wanted ready in time for launch that we just couldn’t make happen with the team being pulled in so many directions.
Dave, our client CEO, wanted things perfect. “Tristan, we’ve waited for 2 years to get this launched. We’ve got marketing material that has been singing praises of this product release for weeks. We’ve sunk 7 figures into it, it needs to look good when users come in.”
This was going to require careful handling “Totally get it, Dave. Likewise, we want to get it perfect as well. Just that with the launch in a few hours, there is only so much we can do. I can ensure we get any user-visible items addressed right away but for things that are lower priority we can put out a fix in a few days. We don’t want to delay launch, right?”
We negotiate work-arounds so that the launch could still happen that day, and I was doing my best to keep a smile on my face. It was going to be tight.
The pressure was building – surely it couldn’t get worse? Wrong.
Barely five minutes later, Rajiv gets a call that a different client had their legacy application hacked – and it may have credit card information. We had warned this client several times to upgrade their aging application for exactly this reason. But when it comes down to it, its still our duty to help. To say we don’t have time for this would be an understatement. It was all hands on deck, and this time – Rajiv had to take one for the team and go tackle that while I stayed focused on launch.
How many punches can you take? I had to keep my head up and my attitude positive–there was only so much in my control, we just had to work out the issues we believed to be critical and keep putting one foot in front of the other.
Eventually, the team and I crunched through the most pressing items, and the green light for launch came like a gift on Christmas morning! Delaying launch would have been egg on all our faces.
Now I wish I could say that launch was a landslide success but because of the codebase we inherited from another vendor, we spent the following weeks fixing several issues. We pride ourselves on responsiveness so we did not require a rollback, and we were able to keep the system running and stable. Thanks to that, even now, Dave is still a fan of our work – so you’ve got to count your wins.
At the end of the day, I learned a couple things: first, on the most difficult of days, hope for the best but expect the worst. Soak up the criticism, uncertainty and stress but stay positive.
Second, persevere. Focus on action – if there is something you can do – do it. Prioritize, and get yourself over the finish line.
A messy win is better than a clean loss.
Story by Tristan Mills, Project Executive & Solution Architect @ Informulate